Most people who are new to local SEO have no idea where to start. If you are in the habit of following SEO strategies and methods for any course of time, you probably already know that SEO trends keep on changing all the time. While dealing with local SEO practices, it is extremely important that you get your on-site as well as off-site SEO strategies optimized for customers and clients who might be searching online for your locally based business. Since local competition is fast heating up, you need to be on the top of your search engine rankings. Unless you do so, you can be quite confident about the fact that your competitors are doing the same.
Here are five rock solid local SEO practices that you can implement this year for generating higher ranking for your business site in the local search engines.
Meta Title & Description Tags
The title and the meta description tags are mainly HTML elements that can be customized for reflecting the overall content of your business web page. Text used in the title and the description tags are displayed in the search results. Therefore you can think of the text used in the title and the meta description tags as a sort of “mini-ad” which you need to craft carefully.
Google enhanced the width of main search result area to 600px last year. In relation to such a change, the length for the title tags that is generally acceptable is around 50 or 60 characters, and the description tags should be within 160 and 200 characters. It is important that you take advantage of the space and make the best use of it. Also double check that your descriptions and titles are not getting cut off under any circumstances in the search results.
If you think you are not sure that how your meta description tags and title might look like or exactly how many characters you need to put in them, you can use an emulator such as SEOmofo or the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress.
Writing descriptions and titles is often considered as a unique art within the SEO world. Since there are literally hundreds and thousands of competing search engine results, if the text is not unique, descriptive and compelling, then the click-through rate of your site or web page is naturally going to suffer. Additionally, putting in even a single extra character or word could result in cutting off of your text with ellipses (…). While this may not seem all that bad, it does give an unprofessional appearance to the whole thing, especially when the ellipses show up within a sentence, thus making your description or title less impactful.
Therefore you need to remember that this space is quite precious, and each and every character that you use counts. The following are some tips as to how to get this right:
* Never waste any space on the page names that do not provide with helpful information.
* If you are looking to reach out to the local customers, make sure that you include name of the state or city that your business is
* located in and/or the specific area that your business serves (for instance, “Serving Cedar Rapids and Corridor of Iowa City”).
Use a targeted keyword in the tag and carefully place it as close to the tag’s beginning as you can.
Always keep in mind that if your business appears in the local search results, you will only have a single shot to convince a person to go ahead and click on your site’s link. Therefore do not just blow it simply by wasting characters which are not going to help convince the searcher that you are actually worth looking at.
Citations & Local Online Directories
According to Google, about four out of every five consumers make use of the search engines for conducting local searches. However, even today many small business owners have not yet claimed a single listing for their local business online, which is really a major missed opportunity.
It is very important you take the necessary steps to get your business correctly and consistently listed on the best online business directories for local businesses, such as Yelp, Citysearch, Merchant Circle and others. You should also look for various respectable local directories where you can get your own business enterprise listed on. Make sure that you check with the website of your local newspaper as well as Chamber of Commerce for seeing if they have any local business directory where you can get your firm listed on. Alternatively, you can carry out a thorough search for keywords such as “[your city] directory” for seeking out other local citation directories or sites.
It is also very important that you get the name, address and phone number (NAP) of your business on various popular citation data aggregators such as Infogroup, Acxiom, Neustar (aka Localeze) and Factual. Do not forget to make sure that the NAP details of your company are kept consistent on all of these citation sites and directories. Discrepancies such as abbreviations, misspellings, lack of suite numbers and incorrect phone numbers can automatically create havoc for you when it becomes difficult for Google to determine which information relating to your business firm is correct. When Google finds it difficult to be sure of your information, the search engine may show incorrect information or not display your business information at all in the search results.
Claim & Optimize Google My Business
Google My Business is widely considered by many to be a directory. However, it is even bigger than that and therefore it deserves its very own section. It is extremely important for all local businesses to go ahead and claim their GMB or Google My Business as well as Bing Places for Business page. It is not only free but it can also get you great exposure if you are optimized enough for being seen in the Google local three-pack.
For claiming your company’s Google My Business page, go to google.com/business. You will need to go through a verification process in which a postcard along with a PIN will be sent to the physical location of your business by Google. The process does not involve any P.O. boxes. Then you will need to log in to your profile and enter the PIN for verifying your business.
The verification process is important as Google will want to confirm the legitimacy of your business as well as the fact that you are the owner of the business. Keep in mind that according to the terms of service as presented by Google, only the owner of a business can claim the GMB page. So if you are working with any digital marketing agency for your SEO needs, you can grant them the permission to act as the manager for your page. In this way, you can remain in full control of your business listing in case you choose to terminate your working relationship with the SEO agency.
The next thing that you need to do is to optimize your company’s GMB listing by using a solid description, business hours, categories, types of payments that are accepted and other details. You will also need to upload your company logo as well as images of your business, services or products. It is usually recommended that you choose at least three images to upload.
Fully populate all the relevant sections to make sure that your business listing with Google is complete. If your business firm mainly offers a kind of service and there is no specific location that your clients or customers can visit, do not worry; you can also opt to hide the information about your physical address while you are setting up the Google My Business listing page for your enterprise.
As discussed above, the Bing search engine also comes with a comparable page meant for the local businesses known as Bing Places for Business. The registration process is quite similar to GMB. To make sure that your company gets the maximum exposure, you should definitely go ahead and have your business listed on the Bing’s local directory as well.
The Importance of Online Reviews
Business firms are finally beginning to realize the role and importance of the online reviews posted by their customers. Statistics reveal that about 84% of people will trust online reviews before buying anything just as they would do a personal recommendation, and 7 out of every 10 customers are going to leave a review if they are asked by a company.
There are numerous reputation marketing software programs and tools that you can use for tracking, managing and proactively attempting to get reviews. Check out these following programs:
* Trust Pilot
* Get Five Stars
* Reputation Loop
There are also various social media platforms such as Tiny Torch and Hootsuite that can allow you to easily monitor and receive alerts every time your brand gets mentioned. You should respond to a review about your business any time it is left by a customer, whether positive or negative. This shows to all other people check out reviews for your company that you really care about your customers opinions and are ready to improve your enterprise.
The two places that you should focus on receiving reviews are the FaceBook profile of your business as well as the Google My Business page as they are the most important ones. Plenty of people regularly turn to the social media for seeing what their family members and friends have to say about a business firm. Therefore it always helps to have positive reviews about your company on its FaceBook profile since it can greatly help to increase the number of prospective customers. Receiving positive reviews on the Google My Business page is also important as they show up on the Google search engine results when anyone searches for your company.
Google has also declared that getting positive and high quality reviews from customers can greatly improve the visibility of a business site in the search engine result pages. This shows that reviews play a very important role when it comes to deciding on the rankings of a local business.
Use the Local Structured Data Markup
Structured data markup, also known as “schema.org markup” or “schema markup” can be easily added to the code of your website for providing search engines with additional information about your enterprise, such as the products that you sell, the reviews that you have collected and the services that you offer.
Statistics reveal that only 31.3% of websites are actually using this markup and most of them are only implementing the basics. Using structured data markup, you can even make your own local business company stand out from others and even achieve better ranking than your competitors. Therefore it is necessary that you add structured data markup in key places within your site wherever they are appropriate.
Google also wants that you use the structured data markup as it helps their search spiders better when they are looking to determine what your business site content is all about. Google also offers a unique Structured Data Testing Tool that will help you to check if your markups are properly implemented.
If the whole idea of coding automatically freaks you out, a good thing to do would be to use the Google’s Data Highlighter as it allows you to mark up the content just by using your mouse. You will have to set up your website with the Google Search Console for this option to work.
This is only just the beginning when you are looking to implement local SEO strategies. By implementing these 5 local search tactics, you can have a fair head start when you are looking to beat the market competition. So get started today with your local SEO practices.